Category Archives: Aspies in the Workplace.

An Aspie’s Workplace Experience

When he graduated high school, college was not an option. He spent a year going out five days a week with his resume tucked under his arm.  He got two interviews.  No job.

At the end of that year, he heard about a temporary labour agency where you showed up and signed up for the day.  If you got called, you got work and you were paid at the end of each day.

For the following year, he caught a bus at 4 a.m. so he could be one of the first in line for the 5 a.m. assignments.

He had a little experience doing some pressure washing and clean up for his grandfather’s painting company. Eventually he got chosen for some warehouse work, some clean up work and other odd labour jobs.

His favourite was a demolition site where he got to smash all the walls with a sledge hammer.  One company hired him to unload pallets for three months.

Working for the temporary labour company, he learned some important lessons.

  • You don’t get on the bad side of the guy who’s in charge of handing out the jobs.

  •  Working steadily and finishing what you start will get you called back.

  •  Save your money.

When a doctor told him that injuries suffered in a previous accident meant he couldn’t continue to do warehouse work, without serious repercussions, he had to rethink his situation.

He had a friend who worked as a security guard.  He was encouraged by the fact that security guard work involved very little social interaction, and was compatible with his skill set. Using some of the money he had saved, he took a course and became a licensed security guard.

He learned about timing.  He was trying to break into the security guard business in a city that had just hosted the Olympics and therefore had approximately 1200 out of work security guards.

He finally got a temporary assignment; three weeks work.  When he asked around about the possibility of getting a full time job, he was told “none”.

Being an Aspie, he made a point of walking the exact beat assigned by the company.  In his mind, it was a fitness routine and he got paid for doing it.  Bonus!

He performed each of his checks on his rotation, signing off with the date and time at each required location.  None of the other workers were doing this. They ridiculed him for doing so. There was no supervision, it was graveyard shift and there was no activity on the premises.

But he’s an Aspie and that’s what Aspies do.

At the end of the three weeks, he was hired.  Full time. The job was routine, but it kept him fit while giving him a lot of time to think on his feet. Eventually he was promoted to supervisor.

He learned some valuable lessons from his supervisory position.  It taught him responsibility and how to assert himself in a small office setting.

He decided he wanted to be a paralegal.  As a detail-oriented and focused individual, it seemed a good fit.

Working part time as a security guard, and using a combination of student loans and savings, he signed up for the course.

Recently he received his certification and started work in a law firm.

So Aspies, if you find yourself in what is perceived as a no-brainer, low-paying job, do not despair.  Learn what you can. Do your best, and look at the positive aspects of the situation.  What you do with what you learn is up to you.  Who knows where it could lead? It is entirely up to you!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

 

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Aspies: How to Make Your Point Politely.

“No!” I blurted out.

The professor and the other students in the class stared at me, appalled.  In true Aspie style, I had directly expressed my complete and total disagreement with the lecturer’s statement.

Fortunately, that professor was open-minded and willing to listen to counter-statements, but in many classes that outburst would have netted me a failing mark for the semester.  People in general, and especially those in positions of authority like professors and managers, supervisors and bosses often do not like to hear dissenting opinions.

As Aspies, while we need not ever remain silent when we have an opinion which we wish to express, it is important that we express it in a manner which is most likely to be effective.

Consider this: If your response is considered confrontational, it is likely that the listener will simply shut down and shut you out. Would it not be more advantageous to encourage the listener to engage in dialogue with you?

So what is the most effective way of NOT agreeing with someone’s statement, and at the same time putting forward your own questions about their position?

A friend of mine, when he was in university learned to say, “It seems to me…”  This allowed him to advance his own opinion without either directly agreeing or disagreeing.  The beauty of this opening is that it allows for the advancing of a personal point of view along with evidence that backs up that point of view, in a non-threatening fashion.

“It became a sort of a trademark of mine,” he said.  “And it helped me navigate my way through some pretty touchy conversations.”

I have also heard of a very successful person who, when questioning practices in the workplace, would use lead-ins such as “I wonder…” and “I’ve noticed…”

This is a far less abrasive approach than exclaiming “No!”, or saying something like “Why do you do it that way?” or “Shouldn’t you …?”  Both of which are considered excessively confrontational by non-Aspies. (Go figure!)

When you convey your position in a non-threatening fashion it allows the listener to ask to have it clarified, to assimilate it, consider it, and perhaps ultimately, even to change their position.

Score one for the Aspies!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Aspies: Five Words That Can Create the Wrong Impression.

In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger’s Teen, I relate how I was often blasted for saying what I thought was expected of me!

Feelings of inadequacy don’t go away easily, so I’m always on the lookout for advice—especially advice related to conversing.  Here according to leadership coach Lolly Daskal of Inc.com in New York City, are five words to avoid:

  1. Won’t: When you say that something won’t work it conveys a defeatist attitude.  Instead say something like, I have some concerns; let’s work through them.

 

  1. Maybe: Saying maybe gives the impression of an inability or unwillingness to commit, (not good) and may signify a lack of intention or direction to your listener.  A better approach, if you have reservations?  I’d like to hear (or see) more details first.

 

  1. Sorry: This is the perfect word if you have an apology to make.  But if you’re asking for something?  Sorry does not belong.  Phrase your request without apology.

 

  1. Just: When you say, I’m just concerned… you may sound tentative, even apologetic to the listener.  You will come across as much stronger and more confident if you say, I’m concerned….

 

  1. Usually: This is a word that not only lacks energy, but indicates resistance to change (not that we know anything about that, right Aspies?  A friend bought me a charming new hat and was disappointed when I would not wear it.  I told him Aspies need time to get used to new things. We need to have it around for awhile before we can deal with it emotionally.  The same applies to ideas, changes in schedule, routine, proposed menu—you name it!) So, watch out for the word   It will give us away in the twinkling of its four syllables.  Instead, gather up your courage and say something like, Let’s give it a try. And mean it.

 

Aspies, I admire each and every one of you.  Thank you so much for following my blog.  I’d love to get your input on my posts, so don’t be shy about commenting!

Remember, just getting up each day and going through the motions is important.  Even more important?  Having a purpose.  Read next week’s blog to learn more about that.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean Adam.

This blog is from material published in January 9, 2017 Financial Post Column by Rick Spence, Free Advice to Live By.

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Young Adult & Adult Aspies: Who Is In Charge of Your Life?

Who will navigate us successfully through life to success?  To achieve the goals we set for ourselves?

Dr. Phil as he is commonly known, says it has to be us.  We, ourselves.  And he has developed a set of what he calls “Life Laws” which he has used to help many of his clients find their way out of seemingly hopeless situations.

In his book, Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters, Dr. Phillip McGraw stresses that what is vital is “…understanding and controlling the cause-and-effect relationships of life; in other words, using your knowledge to make things happen the way you want them to.”

That we are responsible for learning the social strategies that will get us where we want to go, is probably, as Aspies, the last thing we want to hear.

But whether or not you are familiar with Dr. Phil’s non-nonsense TV Show style of therapy, I strongly suggest that every Aspie young adult and adult read this book at least once.

He goes on to state that “We live in a social world.”  This book explains why social skills are key to success and how to organize and manage your life in the direction of your own definition of success.

Perhaps the two most important aspects of this book, are 1) the insistence on one’s duty to self when it comes to learning social skills, and 2) the notion that we manage ourselves.

If you haven’t read this book, you might look at your current self-management strategies and ask yourself:

How’s that working out for you?

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

 

 

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To Touch or Not To Touch? An Aspie Dilemma.

Touch can strengthen relationships, show closeness, and increase co-operation.  This applies to touching in “safe zones”.

So says Laura Guerrero in an April 2013 Psychology Today magazine article.  Touch, Guerrero maintains, is important in developing social relationships.

As Aspies, we often don’t like to be touched.  And we almost never feel comfortable touching others.

So, perhaps more than non-Aspies, we can understand the need to observe the other person’s reaction, of how they respond to your intention to touch.

Do they tense up?  Pull away?  Don’t touch.

Do they relax, seem open to touch?  Keep to the safe zones.

Because touch is the first sense humans acquire, Guerrero maintains it is a key element in building relationships.

Staying within the safety zones, observing a person’s response to your intention to touch, these are key to successful touching.

Do not touch complete strangers, or people you hardly know.  That is an unwelcome touch.

Safe zones are hands, shoulders and arms.

Examples of safe-zone touches?  High fives.  Hand shakes.  Back slaps.  Shoulder taps.

In the office?  Let your manager, supervisor or boss initiate contact, Guerrero warns.

Keep your handshake firm.  Not limp, not bone-crushing.

And when in doubt?  Don’t touch.

Guerrero researches non-verbal communication at Arizona State University and is the author of the book, Close Encounters, Communication in Relationships.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Aspies and Small Talk: Think Communication Bytes.

What is the main characteristic of small talk?

It’s SMALL.  Bytes of conversation as opposed to megabytes or gigabytes.

Keeping it short and impersonal can be challenging when you’re longing to express thoughts and ideas you have harboured inside yourself for so long that they are bursting to come out.  But you must manage your conversations, especially when you are first meeting someone.

Remember:  Bytes.  Little.  Little bits of conversation.

When you are first introduced to someone?  This is not the time to tell them about your fascination with engineering systems, national infrastructure or energetic reactions.  Save those conversations for networking meetings or gatherings of people with similar interests.

Socially?  Small talk is for when you first meet someone.  It’s a time to establish a safe conversational zone for both you and the person who is the object of your conversation.

Topics?  The weather.  Recent outings or vacations.  Current events.  Popular movies.

If the other person takes you deeper into their personal life, political or religious persuasion, fine, let them go on.

But rein yourself in.  Keep your conversation pleasant, interested and attentive.  Excuse yourself politely if you feel you must escape them.

Please remember, Aspies–it’s called SMALL talk.

Yours Truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Aspies: Two Generations Can Help Each Other

I introduced author John Elder Robison and his son, Jack, both Aspies, to you in the last post.

In the same Pyschology Today  April 13th  article, I found John’s observations of his son’s difficulties with office etiquette very typical of Aspies in the work place.

In the article, Robison explains that he became aware that his son seemed oblivious to his co-workers.  He’d get so immersed in his work that his co-workers felt he was ignoring and avoiding them.

He did not engage in office chit-chat or small talk, and he was unable to recognize when this behaviour was having a negative effect on others.

We’ve all been there!  We go to work to work, right??  Not socialize!  Ah, but then there’s the rest of the world.

People like to be acknowledged.  We sometimes get so focused, we fail to see that.  And even then, we may feel we are much too busy to do anything about it.

Give in, Aspies!  Acknowledging others through a brief comment or compliment is just a necessary feature of being part of the human race.

And getting back to our previous topic of small talk? Office lunch rooms are the perfect setting for exercising your small talk entries.

Note that you should not participate in any disparaging talk about other workers or your superiors.

But safe zone topics?  Like recent outings, current events, the weather, the traffic–they’ll keep you in the loop.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

 

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Aspies and Small Talk: Ellen’s Monologue and Bernardo Carducci’s Guide.

I wish I could make small talk, an Aspie recently confided to me.   

Whether we’re visiting family, in a workplace or out with friends, small talk can feel like treacherous ground for an Aspie.  In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen, I show how impossible it was for me as a teen to make small talk with girls my age.

Nowadays there’s an excellent resource book, Dr. Bernardo Carducci’s Pocket Guide_To Making Successful Small Talk.

And the subtitle is encouraging, too: How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere About Anything.

Some tidbits?  Be nice but not brilliant.  You’re not trying to wow people, just converse politely.

Practice your very brief introduction speech.  Hi, I’m George and I haven’t met you yet.

Join in the conversation with a brief remark on the current topic.  If there is no topic, you are initiating conversation, current events are good.

Rather than just abruptly leaving the conversation, part with There’s someone I must speak with, please excuse me. Or, I must go, but it’s been really nice meeting you.

Get the guide!  I know it will help.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Which is more limiting? The Autism Label? Or Our Parenting?

Temple Grandin, whom I greatly admire,  refers to parenting as a “major source of therapeutic momentum”.  But she adds, when children are diagnosed on the autism spectrum, parents may not have enough expectations for their children.

 

They bring the child through school to graduation, but in the meantime, they have not given the child the kind of experience that teaches them life skills, leaving the graduate either unemployed or under-employed.

Autistic children need to learn how to work, Grandin asserts.  They need to learn basic coping skills, like how to shop, how to order food in a restaurant.  Showing up on time, being responsible for a task outcome, these are skills that are needed in order to learn how to be on the job.

 

That’s why I personally feel that involving kids on the autism spectrum in some kind of volunteer activity, where they must show up regularly, and perform expected tasks, is invaluable to today’s kids, autistic or not.

 

As a volunteer, they must learn to be courteous (a missing factor in today’s world, Grandin laments) and to be reliable, to learn certain work routines and to cope with organizational structures.

As a volunteer, they will also meet retired people who have similar interests and who can mentor them.

The best part?  The child can choose the type of organization he/she wishes to volunteer with and select from a schedule of available days and times those which would be most suitable for them.

These kinds of situations force spectrum kids to interact with others, and Grandin says to insist on social interaction for your child is not only desirable, but necessary if you want him to succeed.

 

“The skills that people with autism bring to the table should be nurtured, for their benefit and for society’s.”  That’s why Grandin believes parents must help their children get out into the work world, learn coping skills and the basics of social etiquette.

As parents, we either help, or hinder.  While we cannot help how children are viewed by others, our most important work is in how we encourage our children to see themselves.

 

Quotes from: http://www.templegrandin.com/

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Ten Benefits of Volunteer Service From An Aspie’s Point of View.

Volunteer Services are a great way to prepare for work in the real world.  Volunteering can be a sort of head start program for Aspies.  Here’s why:

1. It gets you out of the house and interacting with people in a positive way that benefits you and your community.

2. It’s a non-threatening way of finding out what kind of work you like, what kind of hours you can handle, and how long you can stand to be part of a work place interaction.

3. If you don’t like it, you can quit.  You will still give notice so that someone can cover your shifts, but if you find the co-workers snarky, or the clientele is too much for you to handle, well, no harm done.

4. You will learn to schedule your responsibilities.  You have to make a commitment.  You have to show up when you say you will.  You have to be good at what you say you are good at.  You have to know that you can get there  (public transit, walking or bicycling) on your own.

5. You will learn to be reliable and punctual.  You will get good references if you do,.

6. You will learn to work with other people of varying ages, professions and education levels.  You will become part of a team.  You will learn how to interact with them in a non-abrasive way.

7. You will learn to understand heirarchy–how people rank in an organization, and how they fit together.

8. You will learn to follow orders–to listen carefully, to ask questions if you don’t understand or are not sure of what is being asked of you, and to find out what special tools or equipment is to be used in the carrying out of these orders.

9.  You will develop different skills, to varying degrees of competence.  These skills do count on a resume.

10.  You will experience limited rejection–most organizations are more than happy to greet new volunteers.

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